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The hazards of soft plastic bait making

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Hello all. I’m very new to the world of soft plastic bait making and I’m pretty concerned about the health effects of plastisol. If I’m using a fan and wearing a respirator, along with using pthalate free plastisol such as the one Do It Molds sells, have I eliminated all of the chemical health risk associated with heating plastisol? I know there are always what I will call mechanical dangers such as spilling hot plastic or your Pyrex cup exploding and so forth. I feel I can mitigate most of those risk by wearing the proper PPE and just taking my time. However, I’m very concerned with the chemical side of things from a health standpoint. Any information you can share would be appreciated! 

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I know I’m not the right guy to be answering this due to my work habits but let me just say this. Being an explosive technician (I apologize if that’s not the right title) is dangerous but it all comes down to what consistent measures one takes to be safe. It sounds like you’re on the right track and I like that you added the mechanical dangers. A few additions I would mention is where are you venting the fumes from the fan; where are you pouring at in your residence and are you using equipment dedicated solely for this fantastic craft?  

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5 hours ago, Fishermanbt said:

I know I’m not the right guy to be answering this due to my work habits but let me just say this. Being an explosive technician (I apologize if that’s not the right title) is dangerous but it all comes down to what consistent measures one takes to be safe. It sounds like you’re on the right track and I like that you added the mechanical dangers. A few additions I would mention is where are you venting the fumes from the fan; where are you pouring at in your residence and are you using equipment dedicated solely for this fantastic craft?  

I have been doing this in the garage with the door open and a fan at each end of my table directing the fumes to the outside. I just can't help but freak out about the possibility of cancer or breathing in toxic fumes.

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I do wonder how much safer phthalate free plastisol is from regular plastisol.  I have not been able to find good chemical info and the plastisol sites don't really do a good job with MSDS sheets for this stuff.  It would be nice be able to compare a phthalate free plastic vs regular plastic MSDS sheet.

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If you do much pouring, I would invest in a respirator. These company msds sheets are tilted more tward the company than the consumer. (They are in business to make money.) Also tell yourself, if this leaves a film on surfaces around my work area after pouring a few hours, what's it leaving in my lungs?

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1 minute ago, Driftwood said:

If you do much pouring, I would invest in a respirator. These company msds sheets are tilted more tward the company than the consumer. (They are in business to make money.) Also tell yourself, if this leaves a film on surfaces around my work area after pouring a few hours, what's it leaving in my lungs?

If you were wearing a respirator would you have that concern?

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No concerns at all. I've been working in plastics for 35 years and pouring plastics for the past 14 and my lungs are still clear.( just had a physical this morning.) Just saying, take all the precautions possible so you can enjoy this hobby.

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First, take this with a grain of salt. The "grain" is ...do things correctly! I still pour (a lot) but I do it in a well ventilated area (garage) with a fan and I wear a respirator. I am very careful to monitor the temperature of my plastic using a digital thermometer (NOT and IR !).

All hobbies have some risk...just ask my Uncle Stubby who's a woodworker! (Just kidding).

Just manage the risks and use common sense

Here is a post i put on Custombaits.com a few years ago:

PVC catches fire you have an emergency toxic event!

http://custombaits.com/index.php?topic=3183.msg21896#msg21896

The primary ingredient in our soft plastic is PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)  which is everywhere in our lives. When you add a plasticizer you get a "soft" PVC that are used in children's toys, teething rings etc. You can also find it on the cage of your dishwasher and other places that might make you nervous if you knew what it was! Due to the low melt point...it is not used in any cooking containers...plus there is a significant issue with burning PVC (see below).

If you add enough plasticizer...you get "soft plastic baits".

The good news is that CCM plastic is phthalate free. Phthalates have been linked to cancer and disruptions of the hormone system. If you are using a plastic that has pthalates (only a few are phthalate free because phthalate is a cheap plasticizer) I would REALLY not use it around the kids.

If you read the MSDS or talk to an Industrial Safety person or Chemical Engineer they won't be especially concerned about PVC....but...

BUT ...that's the end of the good news!

The BAD news is that when PVC starts to burn it releases VERY toxic fumes in the form of chlorine (PVC is approximately 50% chlorine) and dioxin  which are very...very toxic. When the chlorine from burning PVC reaches your lungs (or eyes) it forms hydrochloric acid (as in the stuff they used to gas enemy troops in WW1 !!!!).

If PVC is burning you have a "toxic event" and you need to clear the area! This is also why you need to wear a Respirator when heating PVC...because if you goof up (and we all do !) and the stuff starts to smoke and burn.....YOU HAVE A TOXIC EVENT!

Burning PVC (like in carpet, toys, luggage, toys, packaging, siding on the house, wires,  etc. etc) is one of the reasons why Firemen wear oxygen masks!

So...NO....don't use it the same microwave as your food! And wear a respirator when heating PVC....because sooner or later...you screw up...and get it too hot!
 

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Do you get chlorine and dioxin in the normal heating process when you get a little “smoke” coming off the plastic or it turns yellow  or is that when someone really overheats it and starts to literally burn?  I have seen pictures of plastic that was really burned,  but I have no idea how hot it takes to get to that stage.  

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1 minute ago, dv616 said:

Do you get chlorine and dioxin in the normal heating process when you get a little “smoke” coming off the plastic or it turns yellow  or is that when someone really overheats it and starts to literally burn?  I have seen pictures of plastic that was really burned,  but I have no idea how hot it takes to get to that stage.  

That’s exactly what I was wondering. Is the smoke itself bad if the plastisol hasn’t been heated past 400 degrees?

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It is my understanding that the normal fumes are an irritant and affect each of us differently. I use fans and open all the windows and door in the garage when I pour.  I use a respirator mask rated for fumes if I am going to pour for a longer period of time and use a fan to blow the fumes away from me so it doesn't irritate my eyes. Just use common sense. (By the way, sweeping the sand off the garage floor affects me a LOT more than pouring!). Mark makes a good point. If you can smell it, you need to change your setup.es,

The "fire" incidents I have heard about is when someone accidentally sets their microwave for 10 minutes (not the one minute they meant to!) and then walked away from the work area. Heat your plastic slowly and pay attention to the temperature.

If you see "smoke" , yes you have a significant issue.  I can't stress enough the need to carefully monitor the temperature with a good digital thermometer. (this is true for cooking anything! You can't bake a cake at 500 degrees!)

This is a great hobby,. Very enjoyable. Just take the time to think about what you are doing and make common sense changes to your process. 

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2 hours ago, dv616 said:

Even heating slowly to 350 gets some wisps of something over the plastic.  I am not sure it is really smoke or some other vapor from the heating process.  

Man, don't take a chance with your lungs and your health.  Once you do the damage, it can't be reversed.  Been there, done that.  Spend the time and effort to keep yourself healthy and safe, so you can go broke chasing the soft plastic dragon.

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I found this helpful when I got started about 15 years ago. I understand that some things may not be as current any more, but by and large I think it's still reasonably correct and hope it offers food for thought and may help others understand things a little better. The formatting got a little messed up in spots. I tried to edit it, but it's still a little long. Sorry.

Rick

 

SAFETY
There exists substantial literature from reliable sources that the basis of plastisol (PVC and phthalates) constitute significant health hazards.  Usually, exposure levels are much higher in persons directly involved in the manufacturing process of PVC and related industries, but this author, in good conscience, cannot overlook or omit mention of the health concerns associated with these components.  This is more than a superficial warning about the use of the basic plastic product used in this venture.  By virtue of the fact that this material is used by home hobbyists in a non-industrial, unregulated, uninspectable small scale environment does not mean that it is without its risks, hazards, and cautions.

PLASTISOL

The material that goes into the making of a soft plastic fishing lure is called plastisol.  What exactly is plastisol?  
    The widely available plastisol used in the making of soft plastic lures is essentially polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin particles suspended in plasticizers called phthalates.  The plasticizers give the PVC a high degree of flexibility.  Roughly half the weight of the plastisol is the volume of phthalates used.  This dispersion of PVC resin in a plasticizer forms a liquid that gels when heated then returns to a liquid state and when removed from a heat source cools and cures to a soft flexible plastic.

WHY WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED
    Note:  Center for Disease Control (CDC) Phthalates Fact Sheet:
http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/Phthalates_FactSheet.html

A little bad news about plastisol (PVC and phthalates).  Testing and studies are currently underway for many phthalates to further define their positive and negative characteristics and whether they pose any human health risk.  This is what has been defined so far:
1. Phthalates are a group of chemicals that have been linked with birth defects, reproductive problems, liver and thyroid damage and other health problems.  The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that some phthalates may reasonably be anticipated to be a human carcinogen. EPA has determined that some phthalates are probable human carcinogens.  
2. Phthalate residues remain on the hands even after hand washing.
3. Phthalates pose a unique health threat to pregnant women – some phthalates can cross the placenta and may cause harm to the developing fetus.  
4. Plastisol that is inadvertently burned due to overheating will release highly toxic chlorine gas due to the breakdown of the PVC.  When chlorine gas comes in contact with moisture, it becomes hydrochloric acid!  If the moisture source is wet human tissue such as your eyes, your nasal passages, or your lungs, you may contract chemical pneumonia within a matter of hours of exposure.
(On a side note, the above also pertains to some polymer clays used to create mold masters.  Some of these clays also contain PVC in plasticizers – usually phthalates.  Always read your material packaging for details.  Contact manufacturer if unclear.)

PROTECT    YOURSELF
It is important that heating of plastisol be done in a well ventilated area.  You should have a means of exhausting the air surrounding your immediate work area and a steady supply of clean fresh air.
It is highly recommended that a properly fitted respirator with cartridge filters for organic gas / acid vapor be worn.

WHAT WE ARE PROTECTING OURSELVES FROM
The heating of plastisol used in the manufacture of soft plastic fishing lures releases some otherwise inert chemicals in the form of vapors/fumes/gases while being heated.  Typical by-products of heating are generally considered to be carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, various hydrocarbons, and small quantities of hydrogen chloride.  It is these vapors/fumes/gases from which we must protect ourselves.
The following excerpts are for information purposes to enable you – through education – to protect yourself and those around you from possible negative effects of the routine use of plastisol.

VINYL CHLORIDE
The following EPA bulletin details vinyl chloride which is a component used in the manufacture of PVC.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/vinylchl.html
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bulletin 75-01-4.
Hazard Summary – Created April 1992, Revised January 2000.
Most vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products.     Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in air has resulted in central nervous system effects (CNS), such as dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches in humans.   Chronic (long-term) exposure to vinyl chloride through inhalation and oral exposure in humans has resulted in liver damage.  Cancer is a major concern from exposure to vinyl chloride via inhalation, as vinyl chloride exposure has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer in humans.  EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A human carcinogen.
Sources and Potential Exposure
Occupational exposure to vinyl chloride may occur in those workers concerned with the production, use, transport, storage, and disposal of the chemical.  (Documented by Public Health Service studies, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1997 and 1990.)
Health Hazard Information
Acute Effects:  Acute exposure of humans to high levels of vinyl chloride via inhalation in humans has resulted in effects on the CNS (central nervous system), such as dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and giddiness.  
Vinyl chloride is reported to be slightly irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract in humans.  (Documented by Public Health Service studies, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1997 and 1990.)
Acute exposure to extremely high levels of vinyl chloride has caused loss of consciousness, lung and kidney irritation, and inhibition of blood clotting in humans and cardiac arrhythmias in animals.  (Documented by Public Health Service studies, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1997 and 1990.)
Chronic Effects (Noncancer):  Liver damage may result in humans from chronic exposure to vinyl chloride, through both inhalation and oral exposure.  (Documented by Public Health Service studies, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1997 and 1990.)
CNS (central nervous system) effects (including dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, visual and/or hearing disturbances, memory loss, and sleep disturbances) as well as peripheral nervous system symptoms (peripheral neuropathy, tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in fingers) have also been reported in workers exposed to vinyl chloride.  (Documented by Public Health Service studies, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1997.)

Cancer Risk:
Inhaled vinyl chloride has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer (angiosarcoma of the liver) in humans.  (Documented by Public Health Service studies, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA 1997 and 1990.  Also by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hazardous Substances Data Bank, National Toxicology Information Program, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD. 1993.)

[Author’s note:  The argument has been made that although vinyl chloride is a part of the making of PVC, it is not made free (airborne) during the heating process.  Again, not being a chemical engineer, I cannot state absolutely that this is or is not true, but I would MUCH rather err on the side of caution than take chances and risk such huge health hazards.  According to the EPA, "vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC)…  plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that causes a rare cancer of the liver."]

DIOXINS
    Another important consideration is the fact that large quantities of dioxins have been proven to result from the incineration (burning) of PVC plastic.  Since the plastisol for this hobby is often heated close to its burning point, I personally believe that some potentially hazardous chemicals are being released - such as dioxins.  For this reason, the following quotes are provided from a reliable source concerning these compounds.

Source: http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=12
U.S National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894
DIOXINS
Dioxin is a highly toxic and persistent chemical that can cause cancer.
The term “dioxins” refers to a group of dioxin-like chemical compounds that share similar chemical structures.  [Author's note:  the “group” reference encompasses hundreds of compounds.]
Most dioxins are produced through burning and other industrial activities.  Major sources of dioxin emissions are incineration of waste, chlorine bleaching of pulp and paper, copper smelting, chemical manufacturing, cement kiln burning, coal-fired electricity generation, wood burning, forest fires, and backyard burning of household trash.
Exposure to low levels of all dioxins can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat; headache; dizziness; fatigue; blurred vision; urinary tract disorders; muscle and joint pain; impaired muscle coordination; nausea; and vomiting.
[Author's note:  many of these symptoms at one time or another have been described by numerous persons involved in the heating of plastisol...]

FULL VENTILATION
    Presuming you will be doing this activity more or less indoors (such as in a garage, or basement or in an out-building such as a shed or barn) and not year-round outside on your deck or porch, this is the first step in your personal protection. You should have a means of exhausting the air surrounding your immediate work area and a steady supply of clean fresh air. A fan blowing toward your work area is simply not enough. Be sure to have an opening of some sort in the work space area if enclosed that will allow replacement of that volume of air removed by the exhaust fan with clean fresh air.
As your first line of defense, this will not only help protect you, but also those around you such as:
- your wife (who may be pregnant – and may not even know it!).
- your children.
- your pets.  (Yeah, them too!)

RESPIRATOR
    A properly fitted (half or full facepiece) respirator with cartridge filters for organic vapor / acid gas with a P95 particulate filter should be worn.  Half facepiece respirators start around $20.  Be sure to get a cartridge type rated for organic vapor / acid gas.  Follow the manufacturer's recommendation for periodic replacement of the cartridges.  Replace after a predetermined period of use (usually rated in hours) or if odors can be detected during use.  Replacement cartridges are usually in the $10 range.  When not in use, respirators should be stored in a reclosable (i.e. Zip-Loc®) bag.
    Respirators and replacement cartridges are available at many home hardware and improvement centers such as Home Depot or Lowe's, safety supply outlets such as Grainger's or McMaster-Carr, and some specialty outlets that deal in paints and chemical products.  Note:  A full facepiece mask will also protect your eyes.
                       
FOR GREATEST EFFECTIVENESS
    For the sake of the greatest effectiveness and maximum safety regarding air quality in your workplace environment, you should really consider using both full ventilation (such as a range hood vented to the outside) and a properly fitted full facepiece respirator with organic gas / acid vapor cartridges.

WHY AM I DOING THIS AGAIN?
    Please take a minute to re-read the section quoting from the EPA Bulletin and the U.S. National Library of Medicine excerpts.  Do you want to risk these health effects in yourself or in your family members (or pets)?

Irritation to the eyes.
Irritation to the respiratory tract (including nosebleeds and sinus infections).
Dizziness.
Drowsiness.
Fatigue.
Headache.
Nausea.
Vomiting.
Visual disturbances.
Hearing disturbances.
Memory loss.
Sleep disturbances.
Tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in fingers.
Muscle and joint pain.
Impaired muscle coordination.
Loss of consciousness.
Lung irritation.
Kidney irritation.
Urinary tract disorders.
Inhibition of blood clotting.
Liver damage.
Liver Cancer.
 
     Granted, there are those who have poured their own soft plastics (some for many, many years) without the use of ventilation or a respirator and they SEEM to suffer no ill effects.  But when you consider the long list of possibilities above, don't you think its well worth the investment of a few dollars to protect yourself - and your family?

 

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Here's what I think, I was thinking of getting into pouring plastics but since I really don't need a lot I can adjust my lure making to accept the baits and tails too ones already made. So I don't need to invest in molds and all the plastics needed. I can find what I need and maybe if it comes to a special bait, I can find one of you guys to pour for me with a mold that I will have had made. By the time I invest in what is needed I could have one of you pros do it for me, and in the end a little cheaper and faster in the long run, but it looks like fun anyways.

Wayne 

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On 4/8/2020 at 6:09 PM, rixon529 said:

Irritation to the eyes.
Irritation to the respiratory tract (including nosebleeds and sinus infections).
Dizziness.
Drowsiness.
Fatigue.
Headache.
Nausea.
Vomiting.
Visual disturbances.
Hearing disturbances.
Memory loss.
Sleep disturbances.
Tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain in fingers.
Muscle and joint pain.
Impaired muscle coordination.
Loss of consciousness.
Lung irritation.
Kidney irritation.
Urinary tract disorders.

Nasty stuff. Sounds a lot like old age....like life after 60....well, at least I still catch a few fish:-)

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My husband wears a respirator (a good one, he used to paint cars), uses fans, and works in a 30' x 40' shop. That being said I will come over to visit sometimes and the chemical smell is still strong. I would recommend that you always use a respirator. I work with senior adults with compromised lungs, it is no joke.

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yah this a good post. I'm just starting to make my own baits and love doing it. I've purchased a 3m respirator along with a p100 filter and don't smell a thing with that respirator on. although I don't wear a facemask and get teary eyes after a while and have noticed a slight headache, so I know I'm still in-taking. I am curious if others can chime in on any health issues they've run into after doing this for many years. thanks

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I heat plastic in the basement. If I plan on heating a lot to pour the same color plastic in different molds I open the window above and put a small fan facing outside. If the smell is a bit too much, I take that fan out and use are very large, circular floor fan directed toward the window. Never have found the need for a face mask. (Of course the wife bitches about my pipe smoke and I have to do it anyway at least 5 minutes every 30 minutes.)

One thing I found extremely important was to NEVER overheat plastic and to accomplish that I heat 30-45 seconds at a time until injectable which is usually 300 degrees or less. Even once a good temperature is reached doesn't mean the plastic won't yellow especially when over 5 years old or crap plastic to begin with.

I don't sell lures and don't have to worry about keeping stocked up on different designs in different colors. Besides, I use parts of plastic lures to make totally different lures fusing the parts together using a candle flame. Been doing that for over 10 years or more and happy knowing I can reproduce them at any time.

Edited by Senkosam
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So where did this post end as to what we should all do? Is it just use this stuff at yur own risk? I use deadon plastix and if I heat to over 350 consistently I get more fumes but even where I shoot around 310-320 I still can smell it if I don't wear a respirator. So if I do this for the next 30 years will I get major cancer and die from the hobby? whats the final answer?

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